Freemen Arrive at the Ontario Court of Appeal

Justice Rooke’s 2012 lengthy decision in Meads v. Meads attracted considerable attention, in particular given the peculiar nature of the nature of the parties he deemed “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) Litigants.”

These litigants defy any general definition, aside from using entirely fictitious legal arguments gleaned from the Internet which purports to provide them complete immunity from the legal system. They can use the term Freeman-on-the-Land to denote their entirely unsubstantiated belief that they are free from the rules and laws that the rest of us abide by.

The hope of Justice Rooke’s particular exposé, and its dissemination by all participants in the justice system, is that litigants would be dissuaded from the use of these arguments – which have never been successful in Canada – and therefore avoid utilizing the court’s time.

To illustrate, Justice Myers in Jarvis v. Morlog, [2016] O.J. No. 3662, stayed an action as frivolous, vexatious, or an abuse of process on the basis of it containing OPCA arguments, and stated in his costs decision,

….Some courts take pains to write lengthy, learned reasons to show OPCA plaintiffs how each element of their pleading is abusive. I respectfully take a different view. In my view, plaintiffs who file OPCA claims are playing a game that is designed to frustrate the system and inflict unrecoverable expense and needless stress on the defendants. OPCA claims have been derided as abusive over and over again in courts across the country. I do not believe for a minute that OPCA plaintiffs believe that they can separate their legal personalities by putting their names in capital letters or calling themselves “Noble” or otherwise. They know that they cannot avoid the law or government jurisdiction by claiming to be a free man who has no contract with the government. They don’t refuse to accept the free services of the police, ambulance attendants, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and other publicly funded service providers who approach them in their normal names in the absence of a contract. Nor do I accept that these plaintiffs believe in good faith that they can avoid their just debts by creating unilateral fee schedules and using legal words jumbled into sentences that have no English meaning. In my view, even if some OPCA plaintiffs are being conned by “gurus,” they still know that at bottom they have no legal defence to the debts or claims asserted against them and they only go to the gurus to avoid their legal obligations, at best, or to lash out in bad faith at the system and their creditors at worst. It plays right into OPCA plaintiffs’ ill motives to treat their claims with respect and spend hour upon hour of judicial time writing lengthy, reasoned responses to the gibberish that they spew.

 All litigants are entitled to treated with respect and with simple human decency before the court. The OPCA positions that they adopt are not. In my view, it is more respectful to OPCA plaintiffs to truthfully tell them that they are engaged in a despicable enterprise that cannot be tolerated than to pretend that there is some merit which deserves academic debate and response. In my view, precious judicial time should be spent on resolving real matters. Simply taking judicial time to respond seriously to OPCA claims gives the claimants a measure of success in advancing their improper purposes. Associate Chief Justice Rooke spent more than enough of his very valuable time creating a textbook of abusive OPCA practices in Meads v. Meads. In my view, not another moment of judicial resources or party expense should be invested on OPCA claims. They should be summarily nipped in the bud with reference to Meads v. Meads and no more as set out in para. 2 above.

[emphasis added]

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently denied an appeal of a similar type of litigants, arising out of a 2018 decision by Justice Grace. The applicants sought for ss. 2(1), 153.1, 227.1(1), 237.1 and 248(1) of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”), ss. 4.3, 122, 123(1) of the the Excise Tax Act (“ETA”), and ss. 1(1), 1 (2), 6, 115.2, 133 and 167 of the Ontario Business Corporations Act (“OBCA”) to be of no force and effect. The relief they appear to have been seeking was millions of dollars in “withholdings,” taxes, accounting fees, and damages for an unspecified tort, all supposedly arising out of their classification as a person and the ability of the government to tax them.

The basis for their claim was that these actions violated their right to life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”), and was therefore of no force and effect under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982

Apparently in claiming that the law does not apply to them, the applicants seemed eager to invoke that same law. Justice Grace attempted to summarize their arguments as follows,

[11] A full understanding of the applicants’ argument would be required before I could confidently say that I have properly summarized it. I readily concede that I continue to scratch my head with frequency and intensity despite having tried to decipher the applicants’ written material several times and having listened carefully to Mr. Howard’s lengthy and exceedingly well-organized but puzzling presentation.

[12] What follows is the best I am able to muster.

[13] The applicants maintain that individuals are guaranteed the right to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Canada, they say, has agreed that its domestic law will recognize and respect that right. Canada’s commitment has been fulfilled by section 7 of the Charter which provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

[14] Things then become hazier…

The Court of Appeal characterized their arguments as follows,

[6] The appellants assert that as human beings, they have the right recognized in and guaranteed by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “to choose their relationship with the Juristic Federal Unit Canada”. The result of such a choice is that “an individual is either inside or outside the jurisdiction of the Juristic Federal Unit Canada and the Appellants claim they have the liberty to choose.”

[7] Drawing on some Supreme Court of Canada precedents, the appellants assert that “the liberty interest protected by s.7 must be interpreted broadly and in accordance with the principles and values underlying the Charter as a whole and that it protects an individual’s personal autonomy.” This “[s]elf-determination is fundamental to personal autonomy.” Accordingly, Canada and Ontario’s laws of general application do not apply to them unless they so choose, or consent. They argue “that this s.7 right to liberty included the right to choose their relationship with the State and to refuse arbitrary designation of their legal status in legislation.” They are therefore free to pick and choose the laws to which they will be subject.

[9] In essence, the appellants claim the right to live in Canada, but to be free from the obligations and language of any laws they do not choose to accept. This they say is an implication of “[t]he right to choose as guaranteed by s.7 of the Charter”.

Justice Grace declined to characterize the applicants as OPCA litigants in denying their claim, citing Justice Myer’s decision above and indicated it was not necessary to go that far here,

[32] I do not, of course, fault the applicants for seeking a remedy from the court. That is their right. They have been polite and respectful throughout. However, in my view at least, the applicants have used their voice. It has been heard with open ears, eyes and mind. It has been answered. Life should move on

The Court of Appeal avoided writing lengthy reasons and did not even reference Meads, but “share[d] the application judge’s perplexity at the case,”

[14] To conclude, every assertion made by the appellants in their factum and in their summative statement is based on a selective reading of words and phrases in the Charter, several international covenants, and several Supreme Court of Canada decisions, none of which, properly interpreted, support their radical positions. At least as long as they continue to live in Canada, to reside here, the appellants are subject to federal and provincial laws that apply to residents of Canada, including the Income Tax Act.
[emphasis added]

Daniel Defoe‘s certainty of (death and) taxes appears to hold true, even for those who hold themselves free of the same.


  1. Donald Netolitzky

    The pseudolaw argument advanced by Lance Howard and Catherine Bradbury in Howard v Canada, 2018 ONSC 785 and the subsequent Howard v Canada, 2019 ONCA 361 appeal is a second-generation Freeman-on-the-Land OPCA scheme promoted by a guru who operates under the pseudonym “John Spirit”. Spirit’s materials may be viewed at a number of websites, but his principle method to recruit followers is, as typical of Freeman gurus, YouTube (

    In brief, Spirit claims that international treaties are supraconstitutional authorities that may be enforced via Charter, s 7. The purported result is that one may supposedly eliminate the legal aspect of a human being, being “a person before the law”. That, allegedly, makes one exempt from legislation and other legal obligations, such as the obligation to pay taxes.

    This concept that an individual is divisible into a ‘physical human being’ vs an ‘incorporeal legal person doppelganger’ is commonly called “Strawman Theory”. Strawman Theory is a key element of pseudolaw schemes circulating in the US and Commonwealth jurisdictions, and is extensively addressed in Meads v Meads. Howard and Bradley are clearly OPCA litigants. Strawman Theory is so universally rejected that the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in Fiander v Mills, 2015 NLCA 31 concluded that simply employing Strawman Theory motifs is a basis to presume that a litigant is in court for ulterior, abusive purposes.

    The John Spirit variation on Strawman Theory, and his methodology to purportedly eliminate the Strawman and legal personage, is described and debunked in detail in Pomerleau v Canada (Revenue Agency), 2017 ABQB 123. To be fair to Spirit, his scheme is far more sophisticated than the usual Freeman-on-the-Land products. Spirit has gone so far as to identify Canadian appellate authorities as the alleged basis for his methodology, which is unusual for a Freeman guru. Most make little to no reference to actual Canadian jurisprudence.

  2. I find it interesting that the courts (inadvertently) underscore the philosophical basis of the split person argument, even as they are dismissing it – “There is only one legal identity that attaches to a person” (Meads v. Means, para.445). The OPCA Litigant would no doubt respond that it is precisely the legal identity that he justly wishes to shed from his person. I’m not saying the argument isn’t abhorrent and wrong, just that in the legal context it has some validity.

  3. When I worked at Statistics Canada, the “Freemen” routinely refused to participate in the Census of Population. They hid behind their so-called different legal identities and used amusing devices like a colon between their first and last name (i.e. John:Smith) to create another legal personality.

    We referred to them as the “colon people”. Even so, they used legal gobbledegook to confuse enumerators and other government officials who were unsure of their authority.

    I’m glad to see that the courts do not give credence to any of this nonsense.

  4. Bob Montgomery

    Although I disagree with them as a whole, certain aspects of their claims are borderline truthful. I have met a few and from what I can tell, they follow the laws of man; meaning that murder, stealing, and all of that sort of thing is illegal. However, government interference and government extortion of money is deemed inappropriate to them. I think many of us have experienced government overstep at some point, usually regarding the confiscation of our money or property for a seemingly nonsensical action. What led me to hear these people out was a series of tickets I received. I was targeted by the same officer on several occasions and presented the court evidence that I was in fact driving below the speed limit at the time ( dash cam). It went to court and I thought it was an easy case. However, the officer changed his story and claimed I was driving faster 10 minutes prior to being pulled over, but the officer could not locate my vehicle for that amount of time. Despite the fact that it contradicted his notebook, I was guilty as I had not brought footage of the recording so far back in time. I had only saved footage of about 5 minutes prior to being pulled over. I refused to pay the ticket and filed an appeal. For whatever reason, the government suspended my license without telling me and I confirmed with the city’s legal office that they sent the ticket to the incorrect address accidentally. Nobody notified me of the change in license status and I was pulled over again for driving with a suspended license, even though I was never notified of the change, and no effort was adequately made to call me or send me this info to my actual address. The court, once again, found me guilty. Because of this horrendous experience, I turned to a freeman for advice. It wasn’t some lunatic living in the bush smoking marijuana. He was a regular guy, with a masters degree, who had a long and successful career. However, he ran into a similar problem and moved into the Northern Ontario wilderness, staying at one of his two very well built hunting cabins. The police visited his cabin regularly, often entering when he was away hunting legally. They entered without a warrant despite the signs and notes on his door notifying the police that it was his property. He owned the land, and lived off it. However, the cops kept coming, breaking into his property, and ultimately making up information about him possessing illegal drugs and guns. He owned two legal firearms for hunting and offered to perform a drug test. He was never convicted of anything and no evidence was ever found. Stories like this are why people turn to these “fringe” ways of thinking. If the government and their institutions did not infringe on people’s freedom, the majority of these people would not turn to this way of life. Sure, there are some crazy ones, but a lot of regular citizens are driven to this lifestyle, they are not using it to avoid the law in all cases.

  5. Bob,

    The challenge here is that even when these individuals appear to follow what they deem to be principles of Natural Law (what you call “laws of man”), this is not synonymous with rule of law as we understand it.

    Government is entitled to make laws. That is their prerogative, as long as those laws are constitutional. There is no “right” in any law known in Canada that would allow a derogation from that prerogative.

    Individuals seeking this type of libertarian existence would necessarily have to relocate to a jurisdiction without any centralized administration at all. That doesn’t mean a cabin in the wilderness, as you describe here, but a country elsewhere in the world, typically characterized by civil war or other forms of governmental dissolution. We typically call these “failed states,” and they are not characterized by the type of stability, prosperity, or protection of life, that we value in Canada.

    It really doesn’t matter how disillusioned or well intentioned they may be. Their ideologies are not based in Canadian law, as Canadian law has ever known to exist, and perpetuating their ideas in Canada is having a disruptive effect on the Canadian judicial system.

    Lawyers, as officers of the court, are expected to push back against this disruption, not only because of its effect on all other matters before the court, but because their tactics do not work and are ultimately detrimental to the members of the public who employ them.